Budget 2021: Industry groups say Budget 'misses mark' for farmers, rural communities

Farming groups have expressed disappointment with Budget 2021, saying there was "nothing new or transformational" in it for the sector.

The Government announced the Budget on Thursday, with around $60 million going towards helping farmers and growers reduce on-farm emissions and develop a national farm planning system.

It also included $22.5 million for the National Animal Identification and Tracing Scheme (NAIT).

But Dairy NZ said the Budget "misses the mark" for dairy farmers and rural communities.

"Although funding has continued for existing programmes, which is a positive, there is very little new funding to help farmers accelerate the pace or scale of the great work they are doing behind the farm gate to improve environmental outcomes," says Jenny Cameron, Dairy NZ's general manager for responsible dairy.

"This is a business-as-usual Budget with nothing new or transformational for farmers or rural communities."

Cameron said it was also disappointing to see there wasn't more investment in initiatives to build more resilience in rural communities - particularly in terms of digital connectivity, biosecurity and rural mental health.

"COVID-19 has shown how susceptible New Zealand's economy is to global shocks. We need more investment in on-the-ground initiatives to protect our primary sector, yet the investment in biosecurity has fallen short," Cameron said.

"We hoped to see a substantial Government boost to fund preparedness, capability and cutting-edge technologies.

 "A $10m investment over four years for increased rural digital connectivity is a drop in the bucket and falls short of what is needed. Connectivity is vital for business resilience, and we have yet to see a real plan to address this."

Federated Farmers said it was only due to the farming sector that the Government was able to afford much of the spending in the Budget.

Andrew Hoggard, the group's president, said much of the reason the "financial carnage" predicted by the Government last year didn't eventuate was  "because New Zealand’s internationally competitive, resilient and fleet-footed farmers and growers could roll with the COVID punches and keep this country financially afloat."

"What we really need to see from this Government is an acknowledgement that the world pays us good money for the food we produce, and we need a regulatory framework that encourages and supports us to keep doing what we do," Hoggard said.

Industry groups did see some positives though, with additional support for streamlining farm planning, agricultural emissions research and boosting the effectiveness of NAIT.

"It's positive to see some Budget going to national training to deliver more skilled farm advisers, and an accelerator fund will invest in targeted initiatives to significantly broaden the uptake of integrated farm planning," Cameron said. 

"This is the sort of practical on-the-ground action that is needed."

She said it was also good to see some money going into research and development, however "given the scale of the challenge farmers are facing, we hoped to see a greater increase in R&D funding that will help them meet obligations".

"The fact this didn't eventuate only highlights the urgent need for a clear strategy for science funding and we urge the Government to act on this."